So the exercise continues to yield some linguistic benefit in that the story is helping me learn vocabulary around a theme. The word ነፃነት (netsanet), meaning freedom, shows up a lot, not surprisingly. And I learned from Lulit that her sister-in-law's ex-husband has the phrase ነፃነት ወይም ሞት ("freedom or death") tattooed on his body.
But following the story has also made me cynical about Ethiopia's civil society. I learned, for instance, that Ethiopia is the second worst jailer of journalists in Africa after Eritrea, according to Freedom House. Likewise, on the Freedom House's Map of Press Freedom (0=Best, 100=Worst), Ethiopia has the second worst Press Freedom Score (81) in Africa after Eritrea (94). Reporters Without Borders is slightly kinder to Ethiopia, ranking it #143 out of 180 countries on its 2014 World Press Freedom Index, just ahead of Cambodia and Myanmar. It puts Eritrea dead last at #180.
Zone 9 bloggers named their group indirectly after the Kaliti Prison on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Ironically, they argue that they are in prison just by living in Ethiopia. A Zone9er explains:
Despite the lack of political freedom, a proverbial prison is still better than an actual prison, and I hope the innocent bloggers and journalists, along with all political prisoners, are released in the very near future.In the suburbs of Addis Ababa, there is a large prison called Kality where many political prisoners are currently being held, among them journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu. The journalists have told us a lot about the prison and its appalling conditions. Kality is divided into eight different zones, the last of which — Zone Eight — is dedicated to journalists, human right activists and dissidents.
When we came together, we decided to create a blog for the proverbial prison in which all Ethiopians live: this is Zone Nine.